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Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Annihilation Event Book (Essentials Edition)
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/10/2013 23:28:15
WHAT WORKS: This is maybe my favorite release for Marvel Heroic. Period. Soooo many options jammed into the book, capturing the epic scale of the Annihilation Event, and all in one book. As with Civil War, there is a roadmap, but no railroad tracks. You can blaze your own trail through Annihilation if you like. Also, Nova.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: No Adam Warlock. We get the Fantastic Four, but no Adam Warlock. Sorry, I like Adam Warlock. And yeah, he wasn’t involved in Annihilation, but neither was Reed Richards. Also, we get a great picture of Nova and Annihilus fighting, but there’s an almost iconic Nova-Annihilus scene from the end of the series that wasn’t used. Yes, I’m nitpicking at this point. And yes, I will have a Baron Zemo-like reaction when Warlock shows up in a book.

CONCLUSION: Like I said, this may be my favorite release for Marvel Heroic. Heck, I bet I could buy the Premium version so I have the rules bundled in with this and be happy. If you hate Marvel Heroic, this isn’t going to sway you. If you thought it sounded alright, but wouldn’t touch Civil War with a ten-foot pole, might be time to jump in. If you’re already a fan…then you’ve probably purchased this already. I cannot wait to see the remaining books in the Cosmic line.

For my full review, please visit http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2013/03/tommys-take-o-
n-annihilation-essentials.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Annihilation Event Book (Essentials Edition)
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Leverage Companion 10: The Rich and Powerful
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/25/2013 09:50:57
Follow the money - sound advice whether you're a vice or fraud cop, a tax man, an investigative reporter... or a Leverage crew!

This product contains a fascinating look at just some of the nefarious methods used by crooks - often the white-collar criminals found in board rooms and legal firms and financial houses - to salt away their ill-gotten gains where the taxman cannot get it and thieves (they hope) cannot break in and steal it. At least, not until a passing Crew does the honours.

Art fraud, art theft, bribery, creative accounting, credit card fraud and identity theft, embezzling, insider trading, insurance fraud, money laundering, Ponzi schemes and pyramids, stock fraud, tax evasion, unethical business practices... it's all here, in sufficient detail to inspire your plots but not, I'm glad to say, in quite enough detail to be a complete primer in how to pull it off yourself!

If you've thought that these sorts of white-collar crimes were a bit too cerebral for you and your Crew to handle convincingly, read this and think again. If you need even more inspiration, read John Grisham's The Firm! Or the newspapers... many of the examples given are real-world crimes, along with neat notes on how you might make use of the concepts, if not the crimes themselves, as you devise the next Job.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Leverage Companion 10: The Rich and Powerful
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Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Civil War Event Book (Premium Edition)
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/22/2013 02:36:31
http://www.teilzeithelden.de
--------------------------------

Es war irgendwann in den 80er Jahren, als ich das letzte Mal einen Marvel-Comic in der Hand hielt. Das war die Zeit, als Spider Man noch Die Spinne, Daredevil noch Der Dämon und Iron Man noch Der Eiserne hieß. Oder besser gesagt: Das war das vorletzte Mal, dass ich einen Marvel Comic las. Vor ein paar Jahren stolperte ich im Zuge der ganzen Marvel-Neuverfilumgen über Marvels Civil War Handlungsbogen. Begeistert von der Story kaufte ich mir die Civil War Bände nebst den in den diversen Hauptlinien erschienenen Comics. Ich war begeistert. Ich konnte mich zwar trotzdem nicht langfristig für Marvel begeistern, aber als Margaret Weis Production das „Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Civil War Event Book“ heraus brachte, musste ich es einfach haben.

Worum geht es in dem Band? Die USA planen ein neues Gesetz, den „Superhuman Registration Act“ oder kurz SHRA. Wesen mit Superkräften sollen gezwungen werden, ihre Geheimidentitäten offen zulegen. Dies führt im Laufe der Kampagne zu einem Bürgerkrieg zwischen Befürwortern (angeführt von Iron Man) und Gegnern (angeführt von Captain America) des neuen Gesetzes.

Die Kampagne will die Ereignisse rund um den SHRA und den darauf folgenden Bürgerkrieg unter den Superhelden nacherzählen.

Bevor ich mit der Rezension beginne, möchte ich Leser beruhigen, die diese Kampagne gerne als „Nur Spieler“ erleben möchten. Meine Rezension enthält keine Spoiler. Dort wo ich Details des Quellenbandes erwähne, sind diese Informationen auch für Spieler offensichtlich.

Erscheinungsbild

In dieser Rezension behandle ich die Premium Edition „Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Civil War Event Book Premium.“ Von Margaret Weis Production. Es enthält neben dem Event Civil War noch die Grundregeln für das Rollenspiel selbst. Das Event Book ohne den Regelteil gibt es separat, zu einem günstigeren Preis, zu kaufen. Ich beschränke mich auf das Event Book. Die Grundregeln selbst wurden bereits hier rezensiert. Wichtig ist, dass die Regeln hier in Teilbereichen klarifiziert wurden.

Das mir vorliegende PDF umfasst 368 Seiten und ist englischsprachig. Auf meinem Tablet wird die Schrift gut leserlich dargestellt. Das Layout ist recht verschwenderisch. Es bleibt am Rand häufig ein recht großer, freier, Streifen. Bei entsprechendem Layout hätte man hier deutlich an Seiten sparen können, was das PDF sicherlich günstiger gemacht hätte.

Die Illustrationen sind durchweg farbig. Ob sie direkt aus den Comics stammen oder eigens für das Rollenspiel gezeichnet wurden kann ich zwar nicht beurteilen, aber sie haben mich beim Lesen gut auf den Inhalt eingestimmt – sie sind ein echter Hingucker.

Das PDF selbst ist ordentlich verlinkt. Sowohl das Inhaltsverzeichnis, der Index als auch Verweise im Fließtext selbst führen zuverlässig zur verknüpften Seite. Die Seitenzählung selbst stört diesen positiven Eindruck. Die Seiten des PDFs sind nicht durchgängig nummeriert. Der Regelteil ist von OM01 bis OM135, der Kampagnenteil von CW01 bis CW226 nummeriert. Das erschwert die Navigation ungemein.

Inhalt

Eines vorneweg: Der Band eignet sich nicht dazu, ihn kurz vor der kommenden Spielsitzung einmal rasch durchzulesen und dann draufloszuspielen. Er erfordert einiges an Vorbereitungszeit durch den Spielleiter. Wissen um das Marvel-Universum wird vorausgesetzt. Es gibt zwar genügend Seiten im Netzt auf denen man sich ausgezeichnet informieren kann (Wikipedia ist dein Freund), aber ein völliger Neuling wird erst einmal hilflos vor den Texten stehen.

Die Kampagne ist in drei Akte unterteilt. Die einzelnen Akte beinhalten lose zusammenhängende Szenen, die kurz und prägnant Schlüsselereignisse der Kampagne beschreiben. Das bedeutet zwar, dass der Spielleiter auch hier viel Arbeit in die Kampagne investieren muss, aber letztendlich wird er durch seine Arbeit mit einer recht umfangreichen Sandbox belohnt.

Die Autoren gehen davon aus, dass die Kampagne genügend Spielmaterial enthält um ein halbes Jahr an ihr spielen zu können. Mein eigener Eindruck ist, dass die Kampagne ohne Probleme auch länger laufen kann, zumal nach deren Beendigung es noch genügend offene Handlungsstränge gibt, die es Wert sind weiter verfolgt zu werden.

Am Anfang des Textes werden diverse Sonderregeln wie z.B. Troupe Play und Hero vs. Hero erläutert, bzw. auf Probleme beim abhandeln solcher Situationen eingegangen. Hier findet man auch eine Übersicht über die diversen Organisationen und Einzelpersonen, die im Fortlauf der Kampagne von Bedeutung sein Können.

Wer sich noch nicht mit dem Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game beschäftigt hat, wird sich eventuell darüber wundern, dass er ausschließlich vorgefertigte Charaktere spielen kann. Es gibt zwar auch Regeln um sich per Zufallstabellen einen eigenen Charakter zusammenzubauen, die Kampagne selbst geht aber davon aus, einen der bekannten Helden des Marvel Universums zu spielen. Mir persönlich gefällt das. Es mag ungewöhnlich sein, hört sich aber nach einer Menge Spass an. Zu diesem Zweck findet sich am Ende des Bandes noch eine lange Liste fertiger Charakterblätter aller relevanten Superhelden. Hier dürfte für jeden Geschmack etwas dabei sein.

Zuerst hatte ich die Befürchtung, dass die Nacherzählung des Civil Wars Spielern wenig Freiraum lässt um eigene Entscheidungen zu treffen und eigene Wege zu gehen. Meine Befürchtungen sah ich aber nur teilweise bestätigt. Natürlich gibt es festgesetzte Events. Der SHRA wird beschlossen werden. Aber auf welcher Seite werden die Spielercharaktere dem Bürgerkrieg beitreten? Oder versuchen sie neutral zu bleiben? Wie strikt wird das neue Gesetz sein? Wie denkt die Öffentlichkeit darüber? All das kann durch die Entscheidungen der Spieler beeinflusst werden und fließt letztendlich in das Ende der Kampagne mit ein. Gleich zum Beginn der Kampagne wird z.B. einem der Spielercharaktere die Möglichkeit geboten, den Hammer Thors aufzunehmen und so zum neuen Donnergott zu werden. Damit alles funktioniert, dürfen die einzelnen Szenen natürlich nicht zu detailliert beschrieben sein. Niemand kann vorher sagen in welcher Konstellation die Helden die Szene betreten. Welcher Seite gehören sie an? Wen haben sie bereits vorher getroffen? Mit wem sind sie befreundet, wen haben sie verärgert? Hier ist also wieder der Spielleiter gefragt, die zu spielenden Szenen entsprechend vorzubereiten, bzw. sie durch eigenes Material zu ergänzen.

Um das alles Spielbar zu halten, haben die Autoren ein paar neue Ideen entwickelt. Im Troupe Play z.B. suchen sich die Spieler mehr als einen Charakter heraus, den sie dann je nach Bedarf spielen können. Eventuell ist ein Charakter durch äußere Umstände blockiert? Eventuell passt gerade ein anderer Charakter besser ins Bild? Das besondere an dieser Art von Spiel ist, dass erworbene XP für alle gewählten Charaktere genutzt werden können.

Obwohl sich alles sehr stimmig und rund liest, hätte ich mir mehr Hintergrundinformationen gewünscht. Beim lesen des Materials blieb mir oft nur die Möglichkeit mir im Netzt genauere Informationen zu suchen. Beispielsweise wird im Text ein wichtiges Ereignis erwähnt: Die Stamford Tragödie. Obwohl dieses Ereignis eines der Schlüsselszenen mit dramatischen Konsequenzen ist, erfährt man nur am Rande, dass eine Gruppe Superhelden mit dem Namen New Warriors und ein Schurke mit dem Namen Nitro daran beteiligt waren, sowie die Anzahl der unbeteiligten Opfer. Das ist insbesondere schade, weil davon ausgegangen wird, dass die Charaktere z.B. auf der Straße von Passanten darauf angesprochen werden.

Dieser Mangel an Hintergrundinformationen setzt sich leider durch die ansonsten hervorragend aufbereitete Kampagne fort.

Die einzelnen selbst Szenen sind hervorragend beschrieben. Der Spielleiter erhält hier genügend Informationen um die Szene spannend zu gestalten. Die Autoren gehen gerade bei wichtigen Schlüsselszene sehr gut auf Alternativen und deren Konsequenzen im Fortlauf der Kampagne ein. Schon beim lesen, ohne das Marvel-Universum genauer zu kennen, fielen mir diverse Anknüpfpunkte und coole Actionszenen ein.

Preis-/Leistungsverhältnis

Hier weiß ich nicht recht wie ich das mir vorliegende Material beurteilen soll. Auf der einen Seite überzeugt die Qualität des PDFs. Auf der anderen Seite aber bleibt wegen des allzu großzügigen Layouts ein leicht schaler Beigeschmack. Ist das PDF wirklich USD 29,90, bzw. das Hardcover USD 49,99 wert? Für mich ist das so ein Grenzfall. Ich würde sagen: „Gerade mal so ok.“ Wer die Marvels Grundregeln bereits sein Eigen nennt, kann auf den Erwerb der Premium-Ausgabe verzichten und nur den Kampagnenband „Civil War Essentials“ erwerben. Das würde in der Hardcoverausgabe mit USD 39,99 zu Buche schlagen ( USD 23,99 für das PDF). Wirklich günstig ist das gemessen an der Textmenge nicht.

Fazit

Mich hat der Band durchaus begeistern können. Es gibt zwar in der abschließenden Beurteilung Abzüge in der B-Note, wegen des nicht ganz optimalen Preis-/Leistungsverhältnisses und manch fehlender Hintergrundinformation, aber die Kampagne sieht nach jede Menge lang anhaltendem Spielspasses aus.

Mir hat das Lesen des Bandes sehr viel Freude bereitet und mir Lust auf Mehr gemacht. Was will man mehr erwarten?


Unsere Bewertung

Erscheinungsbild 4/5 Viele farbige Illustrationen, gute Verlinkung des PDFs. Abzüge wegen der nicht durchgehenden Nummerierung der Seiten.
Inhalt 3/5 Gut geschrieben, viele nützliche Tipps für den Spielleiter. Leider mangelhafte Hintergrundinformationen. Viel Arbeit für den Spielleiter.
Preis-/Leistungsverhältnis 4/5 Viel Material für eine lange Spielzeit. Abzüge wegen des verschwenderischen Layouts.
Gesamt 3.6/5 Ich schwanke hier zwischen drei und vier Sternen. Letztendlich würden es vier Sterne werden, weil das einzige echte Manko, die fehlenden Hintergrundinformationen, durch Eigenrecherche im Netz leicht ausgeglichen werden kann.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Civil War Event Book (Premium Edition)
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Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Annihilation Event Book (Essentials Edition)
by Christopher T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/17/2013 18:52:49
This gives a very nice summary of the event, and great writeups for the cosmic genre. As somebody who hasn't read the comics I've gotten a good feel for what's going on.

There is one problem: this book is chock full of "See page ANXX" errors - there's at least one every couple of pages!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Annihilation Event Book (Essentials Edition)
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Publisher Reply:
ANXX errors are being fixed! This was only an issue for the Essentials book, but it's one we're addressing shortly (along with a few other errors that slid by our crack team of proofreaders.) Thanks!
Leverage: Hitters, Hackers, & Thieves
by darryl a. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/12/2013 17:36:38
I won't go into detail about the contents of the book as that has been covered. I will say that the actual rules are well done and well thought out. There are two things about this book that grate me (and thus the lower rating)

#1. There is a lot of wasted space...Meaning your $ to content ratio is low. Each section has 12 pages of example characters, 36 pages in total out of 129 pages. Not to mention each chapter starts out with what I would call blather. The pictures tend to take up half the page when used. Once you actually get to content (which is very good) you have had to dig through page after page of waste.

#2. No guns? Okay yeah I get that this is Leverage and in the TV they don't use them. However what if my crew does? What if I am using Leverage to power another genre (see Krpytos for using Leverage for spies. Bond shoots people)? The source books are about options, and while the options they give are good, they left me wanting. Talents for using firearms and the like should have been included.

Content: Really Good
Presentation: Really lacking

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Leverage: Hitters, Hackers, & Thieves
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Castlemourn Campaign Setting
by Zachary H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/04/2013 20:24:24
I respect a lot of what Ed Greenwood has done, but unfortunately I couldn't get into this product. A good campaign setting has to really grab you, and despite a few unique ideas around this relatively small land that's recovering from a magical apocalypse, the whole business never really feels authentic or put-together the way early Forgotten Realms did.

Of course, not being the Realms is no crime in campaign setting, but this product simply fails to grab the imagination or excite. Despite the different premise, it all feels terribly average. In a RPG market flooded with potential settings, this one just doesn't quite meet the standards to be memorable.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Castlemourn Campaign Setting
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Leverage Companion 06: KRYPTOS
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/02/2013 14:11:28
Would you rather run a spy-based game than one full of criminals (reformed or otherwise)? Or do you think that even a standard Leverage crew could do with learning a little tradecraft to supplement their criminal talents? Then cast your eyes over this product...

It starts off with some terminology, specifically how to rename Leverage roles to suit espionage teams. This moves on to a discussion of what those roles might do if you're all hardcore spies working the shadows at the behest of an agency rather than doing jobs for specific clients Leverage-style.

Next comes a look at changes in the way you play to suit a spy game. Spies never, ever build up the sort of trust you see in a Leverage crew, they cannot afford to be that confident about someone else not even if (as far as they know) they work for the same agency or even the same nation. Peppered with examples, this section gives ideas for creative uses of Flashbacks to build suspicion and fuel what has the potential to be some exciting role-play, interplay between characters.

Next comes In The Field, where we learn about gadgets & gear appropriate to spies, along with notes on interrogations, languages and martial arts - all things that feature in spy thrillers. If captured, make creative use of a Flashback to describe how you engineer your escape!

Then, after a recitation of the Moscow Rules (all spies should know these!), there's a look at how to structure a Leverage game to fit the spy genre, something that works well with the game's mechanics anyway. This moves naturally into the sort of campaigns you might want to run in this genre.

Next, there's a wonderful Instant Mission Generator. Armed with this, a D10 and a good working knowledge of spy thrillers, you can literally come up with spy games on the fly - or, if you get the time to do some proper prep, you can use it to inspire awesome adventures. I'll certainly be making use of this, although people who've played in my games know I'm no slouch at generating spy adventures!

Finally, Three Random Letters is a quick flip through some of the alphabet soup that passes for intelligence agency names around the world. Your agents may ply their trade for No Such Agency or Caught in the Act, but it helps to know what the opposition call themselves.

Definitely worth a look if you fancy an excursion into the spy genre... after all, do you want to send a clean-cut college boy into a snake pit, or are you going to send a snake of your own to slither in?

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Leverage Companion 06: KRYPTOS
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Leverage Roleplaying Game
by Hero A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/19/2013 14:28:42
To get things straight off my chest, I'm a huge fan of Leverage the TV show, and a hardened RPGer. However I'm not much of a fan of the Cortex system, I have The Cortex main rules and the Serenity game but really I think the Savage World system is better. This game has changed my view of the Cortex system, all the stuff I never really liked has been stripped away and we have a lean, mean system that reflects the TV show very well.
The system has been modded to perfectly emulate the concept of a crew pulling heists. Plot Points which I never thought were covered in enough detail in previous games, get more detail and involve the players more.
Attributes range from d4 (bad) to d12 (amazing), as do the five skills (yes five skills! Leverage breaks a crew into 5 specialists and the game follows suit). Everything is kept lean yet there is still plenty of dice rolling to stop your hands from getting bored.
MW have also produced plenty of supplements to expand characters and also provide much needed campaigns to get a Gm started, all I of which I can recommend.
My advice, get your players to watch a few episodes first, let then them go rob some bad guys.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Leverage Roleplaying Game
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Leverage Companion 04: Hollywood Hacking vs. the Real World
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/18/2013 11:18:35
I'd better come clean: I am both a senior computer professional (Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society) in real life AND I like playing the Hacker when I get to play Leverage or any other contemporary game with a similar role. This book says all the things I've been saying to GMs and game publishers (and my students) for years!

Hacking in movies or TV shows is nothing like real life. Most people, even the non-computerate, have some inkling of that, but here it is all laid out for you clearly. No whizzy 3D graphics, no fingers typing so fast that they are a blur with never a backspace or an enter key being pressed... probably a very dull-looking command line and rather more careful typing of what looks pretty much like gibberish to the uninitiated. Read this book and you'll find out what's wrong with movie/TV interpretations of the hacker's craft and just enough of what's right for you to sound a bit more convincing during a game.

One thing has been left out, which is a shame because it works so well in a Leverage game as well as in real life: human engineering. The weak link in any security system, computer ones included, is the human beings involved. Finding stuff out through bluff or research (passwords for example) is a lot easier than typing lines of code, and makes for a more entertaining game as well - because you don't have to be the computer geek to do it, so the whole Crew can get involved.

That, or pit a GM who knows about computers against your Hacker... now, it was Spycraft rather than Leverage but in one game the GM came along, plonked a laptop in front of me and said "Hack"... and I did, rather to his amazement!

If you run or play a contemporary or future game where computer hacking takes place, read this book. Most of it will be useful, even if the new Talents are Leverage-specific (nice ones, too!).

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Leverage Companion 04: Hollywood Hacking vs. the Real World
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Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game
by Dirk V. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/07/2013 18:35:37
Games of Futures Past

There’s no doubt about it: the Marvel Universe has gone through quite a lot of changes during the last decade or so. Characters have come and gone, super hero teams have disassembled, reassembled or changed their rosters and there’s even been a civil war that shook the foundations of the world for a while. With so much stuff happening, there was a need for a new RPG that translated the current characters and their powers in game stats. Margaret Weis Productions took up the challenge, filling the void that was left after Marvel decided to cancel its own RPG, Marvel Universe Roleplaying Game (2003) after they found out it wasn’t able to outsell Dungeons & Dragons, even though the sales figures were excellent compared to any other roleplaying game.

This reviewer still fondly remembers Marvel Superheroes (Advanced Game) by TSR. It was first published in 1984, with the expanded edition following close on its heels in 1986. Marvel Superheroes used something that was nicknamed the ‘FASERIP’ system, an abbreviation of the 7 Attributes in the game (Fighting, Agility, Strength, Endurance, Reason, Intuition and Psyche). It was a very well-researched game that used a great table, different colors to represent levels of success and an ingenious way to categorize Powers and Attributes, dividing them up in different categories: Shift 0 (0), Feeble (average score of 2), Poor (average of 4), Typical (6), Good (10), Excellent (20), Remarkable (30), Incredible (40), Amazing (50), Monstrous (75), Unearthly (100), Shift X (150), Shift Y (200), Shift Z (500), Class 1000, Class 3000, Class 5000 and Beyond, with especially the latter 4 and often even 6 or 7 categories usually reserved for intergalactic beings. It was a great, intuitive system, except for one thing: with all of the damage and defenses being fixed, one always dished out exactly the same damage and oftentimes villains or heroes weren’t even able to scratch their foes because of the fact that their fixed damage was lower than their opponents’ fixed defenses.

TSR later issued the Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game, which used the SAGA System that had been conceived for the underestimated Dragonlance: Fifth Age RPG. It used 96 custom-made cards instead of dice and the characters were all based on 4 Abilities rated 1 through 30, but the rules were left too vague in some places, which many players found confusing.

Marvel then took matters in its own hands by coming up with the Marvel Universe Roleplaying Game, which featured a diceless mechanic based on the allocation of energy (or effort) represented by ‘red stones’. As already stated, the company expected an unrealistic amount of sales and cancelled the game soon after the basic rulebook was released.

Cortex

Enter Margaret Weis Productions, which decided to adapt its acclaimed Cortex System to the Marvel Universe. However, instead of basing Marvel Heroic Roleplaying on the generic rulebook that was released a while ago or instead of making the new RPG compatible with earlier efforts such as the now-discontinued Battlestar Galactica, Smallville, Serenity or Supernatural, the rules went through quite a lot of changes before they were considered ‘right’ for a superhero game based on the Marvel comics.

Even though Smallville was adapted quite heavily to a unique style of play that suited the series quite well, all of the other Cortex games (including the simplified Leverage) have used 6 Attributes: Agility, Alertness, Intelligence, Strength, Vitality and Willpower. Marvel Heroic Gaming, however, ditches all Attributes in favor of a much simpler, narrative style of gaming and we’re not really sure if that was the right way to go…

Marvel Heroic Gaming: Datafiles

First off, allow us to make one thing clear: this game looks beautiful. The makers definitely benefit from the great artwork provided by Marvel and ably directed by Jeremy Keller. This is a great book to look at, both as far as the drawings and as far as the layout are concerned, and with 234 pages of full-color delight in your hands, the expectation bar for first-time readers is set very, very high.

The book starts off with a foreword and a sample Datafile, followed by an explanation of the dice types used. Margaret Weis is still allergic to anything remotely resembling a D20, though, and so the game only uses 5 dice types: D4, D6, D8, D10 and D12.

Each character has 3 Affiliations, which describe if (s)he is at his or her best Solo, with a Buddy or in a Team. Unfortunately, there’s no way not to prioritize, as there’s only a D6, a D8 and a D10 to allocate to each Affiliation. This means there’s absolutely no way to simulate that a given hero or villain is just as effective on his own or in a team. Obviously, this is an effort to keep game balance, but it feels like too much of a constraint, limiting your options in the game.

All characters also have several Distinctions, which are snapshots of their personality traits, backgrounds, attitudes or catchphrases. These can be just about anything, from ‘I Don’t Have Time For This’, ‘Tactical Genius’ and ‘Uncompromising’ (Cyclops) to ‘Hotheaded Hero’, ‘Never Grows Up’ and ‘Shameles Flirt’ (Human Torch).

Next up are powers, which are arranged in one or more Power Sets. Each Set groups together powers that have the same origin, such as Iron Man’s Powered Armor (grouping together Cybernetic Senses D6, Superhuman Durability D10, Enhanced Reflexes D8 and Superhuman Strength D10) and Weapons Platform (consisting of Missiles D6, Supersonic Flight D10 and Repulsors D8). Most of the powers are left purposefully vague, leaving the Storyteller and the players to add in the blanks, usually based on their knowledge of the hero or villain they’re playing. This is a problem, since it is obvious that Mister Fantastic’s D10 Stretching, for example, works in a very different way than Carnage’s Stretching. Let’s take Elemental Control, which is a general moniker for Air Control, Cosmic Control, Darkforce Control, Earth Control, Electric Control, Fire/Heat Control, Gravity Control, Ice/Cold Control or any other type of energy one can come up with. No rules distinction is made between any of these types of control, leaving Storytellers with a general description only. The system is remarkably flexible, allowing for ‘Complications’ that can mirror just about any effect, but you really need to know the characters in order to be sure what they can do with each power. When you’re used to playing the Hero System, Fuzion or even Mutants & Masterminds, where powers are so well-defined that they’re virtually impossible to misinterpret, this is a major worry.

Another problem with powers is their very limited effect range. All Powers use either a D6, a D8, a D10 or a D12, allowing for only 4 levels of Power. In the Basic Game, Armor, Beast, Iron Man, Luke Cage, Ms. Marvel, Sentry, Spider-Man and Spider-Woman all have the Power Superhuman Strength (D10). This may be cutting it too close for a lot of gamers and comic fans, as many of us love to compare statistics and discuss who is the stronger hero, etc. Compare this to the virtually unlimited range in games like Hero System and Mutants & Masterminds and you quickly realize more could have been done to distinguish one character from another, especially since Attributes don’t exist in this game.

Every Power Set includes one or more special effects, but these are very general and only affect the way dice are rolled, the number of dice rolled or the die type rolled. Still, quite a lot of effects can be simulated with this, but again the rules aren’t able to express the difference between one special effect and another. For example, Area Attack allows a character to add a D6 and keep an additional effect die for each additional target. It works exactly the same way, no matter if you’re playing the Human Torch or the Invisible Woman.

All Power Sets also come with at least one Limit, such as Conscious Activation, Gear or Mutually Exclusive. Only 7 Limits are provided, but they seem to cover most of the bases.

All Powers, Special Effects and Limits are listed as ‘examples’. There’s no exhaustive list, allowing the Watcher to come up with his or her own descriptors. However, there’s no way to create your own hero (or villain, for that matter). Marvel Heroic Roleplaying is totally geared towards playing existing heroes, sometimes even in ‘troupe play’ (allowing the players to play several heroes, one after another, during a single gaming session). This is a glaring omission, since creating your own character not only is part of the fun for a great many gamers, it also allows everyone to avoid the annoyance and inconsistencies that invariably result when a player handles an established character very differently than the way that character would normally act. Luckily, it’s possible to download a Random Datafile Generator document from the Margaret Weis Productions website, which allows players to roll on a number of tables in order to create a character. The character creation is fast, but powers and the like need a lot of explanation in order to explain what can and can’t be done with them. Also, randomly rolled powers are only rated D8, D10 or D12, which further limits the range available.

Next up are Specialties, which are skills, like Acrobatic, Business, Combat, Mystic and Psych. These have an even more limited range than powers do, with all Specialties rated either Expert (D8) or Master (D10), even though the D8 can be substituted by 2D6 and the D10 by 2D8 or 3D6.

Lastly, characters are also defined by Milestones. Each of these has three progressively more significant levels, which grant 1, 3 or 10 Experience Points, respectively. For example, Wolverine has two Milestones: ‘…And What I Do Isn’t Very Nice’ and ‘Old Friends Old Enemies’. The first Milestone provides 1 XP if Wolverine first chooses to inflict physical stress in a Scene, 3 XP when another hero rebukes Wolverine for his violence or when Wolverine threatens another hero with violence and 10 XP when Wolverine kills someone or recovers from his berserker rage in front of innocents. They’re a nice way to add a roleplaying element to the rules, just as Distinctions are, even though they’re rather limited in scope.


Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Dice pools

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying uses narrative ‘Transition Scenes’ and more action-packed ‘Action Scenes’. During Action Scenes, characters can take an action or respond with a reaction. Attack actions are rolled against the Watcher’s dice pool, which is called the Doom pool. The character’s dice pool consists of:

• The appropriate Affiliation die, depending on whether the character is alone, acting with a buddy or within a team (this will always be a D6, a D8 or a D10).
• One Distinction. Players have the option of using the Distinction in a positive way and choosing a D8 or deciding that the Distinction is used negatively, which only adds a D4 to their dice pool, but also grants a Plot Point.
• The die for one Power from each of the Power Sets.
• One Specialty.
• One of the opposition’s stress or complication dice, if any. Stress can be physical, emotional or mental and represents damage or mental or emotional overload. When either one of these types of stress exceeds D12, the character is ‘stressed out’ and pretty useless for a while. Complications are usually the result of certain actions taking effect or obstacles. For example, entangling someone might add a complication of D10, while a foe standing on difficult ground might have a complication of D6 to deal with. Almost no examples are given, leaving the Watcher a lot of freedom, at the risk of ruling inconsistently if (s)he doesn’t write down what die he previously assigned to what kind of Complication.
• One asset, if any. An asset is a brief, situational advantage, usually created by using the effect die of an action. For example, if Kitty Pride manages to crack an opponent’s firewall, she can create a temporary ‘Compromised Security’ asset equal to her effect die.
• One Push Die (1 Plot Point grants an extra D6), stunt (basically a push die connected to one of a character’s Power Sets or Specialties, which grants a D8 instead of a D6, or a D10 if the Watcher rolled a 1 on one of his dice, which is called an ‘opportunity’) or resource (a professional contact, equipment or some kind of knowledge connected to a Specialty during a Transition Scene), if any.

Players can then send Plot Points in order to change their pool in a number of ways and roll the dice, setting aside ‘opportunities’ (any dice that come up as 1’s). Out of the remaining dice, they add two dice together to generate a total and pick one die as their effect die. The Watcher usually rolls the dice out of his doom pool – which is similar to the players’ dice pools, but works slightly differently. If the player beats the Watcher’s total, the action succeeds at an effect equal to the effect die type (not the exact roll).

Plot Points are very important, as they can be used while generating the dice pool to add a push die, an extra power or Distinction beyond the single power or Distinction used or a D8 (or D10) stunt die. Players can also activate certain special effects by spending a Plot Point or add one of their stress dice, but this also steps up the stress die after the roll. For example, if Captain America sees the Statue of Liberty is being taken down, this may enrage him, causing him D8 emotional stress. He can use this extra D8 and throw his anger in his next attack, but this creates even more stress, leaving him with D10 emotional stress afterwards. If he exceeds D12, it’s game over for Cap.

Plot Points can also be spent on results. A PP can be used to add an extra die from the original roll to the total if any dice are left, to keep an extra effect die, to activate an opportunity (a 1) rolled by the Watcher, to activate certain special effects, to use an effect die from a reaction roll (for example, as a riposte) or to change stress to another type.

Obviously, this system is pretty innovative and allows for a lot of options. It promotes tactical playing and certainly adds a level of depth and strategy to the game, while also having the benefit of being interpretable in a multitude of different ways without necessarily needing rules for every eventuality. However, the number of dice in a pool and the limited range of the powers and Specialties also means there aren’t enough differences between the characters. This evens the playing field a little bit too much, allowing for minor characters to beat major league players too easily, for example. If Powers and Specialties would add more dice than just one and if a wider range had been used (for example, D4 up to D20), a lot of these problems would have been solved. If the Attributes from other Cortex games had been kept, that would have added flavor and more variety as well. As it stands now, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying looks great and offers a lot of promise, but its innovative rules system is inherently flawed and might not please all comic or RPG fans. Most of us like our characters diverse and unique, and most of us like clear differences between attributes, skills, powers and more.

Events

Adventures are called Events in Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. They’re broken down in ‘chapters’ that mirror comic book sensibilities, such as Acts, Action Scenes and Transition Scenes. The Event provided in the basic rulebook mirrors the Breakout story in the first 6 issues of New Avengers and the separately published Events all mirror known Marvel comic stories as well. This is unfortunate, as players who already know these stories might not be particularly challenged, surprised or enthusiastic about playing through scenes they know will be featured in the story. It would be nice if Margaret Weis Productions adds more options for newly-generated characters and starts to publish unique Events that don’t mimic what’s already out there. Please, guys?

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game
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Leverage Companion 03: The Foil
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/01/2013 21:20:46
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: This Companion introduces a seventh role, that of The Foil...essentially a PC adversary to the Crew. Unfortunately, they lose me right there with the first rule of being a Foil: You Lose. The rule in the Leverage Writer's Room regarding Jim Sterling, the Leverage crew's biggest foil, is Sterling Never Loses. Anywho, they provide the ten rules of playing a Foil (one of which essentially turns them into an assistant Fixer as well). One page even covers situations where the Foil might be forced to team with the Crew (which happens as well). Foil Talents are provided, like Body Double (meaning you have body doubles on site), I Am The Rogue's Gallery (where you can get in before the Crew's Thief) and Owning the Field, which you can use to prevent a specific Role from being used. Sterling himself is statted up as a Foil, along with a few other sample ones.

WHAT WORKS: It's a good concept, the recurring nemesis in the Heist game. Providing mechanical support for a Sterling isn't a bad thing, especially as it makes their constant victories slightly less annoying than if it all came at the hands of an NPC.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: First and foremost? The Ur-Example completely violates the first rule of playing a Foil.

CONCLUSION: Sterling never loses. At best, the Leverage crew manages a win-win situation with him. Additionally, playing a Foil would be a bit of a drag, as the Foil is either not going to be in every Job, or it's a series of back and forth PC fights. I certainly applaud Margaret Weis Productions for providing options...I just don't this one really works.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Leverage Companion 03: The Foil
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Leverage Companion 02: Leverage Noir
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/01/2013 19:01:08
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Another $2.99 microsupplement, this one walks you back from modern day to the 20s-40s. Changing the time period does have a pretty big effect on your game, for two major reasons: 1) The omnipresent earbuds are no longer present, and 2) the Hacker needs a complete overhaul. New Talents include Hardboiled (you don't scare easily), Enforcer (your reputation now wins you as many fights as your fists do), Wireman (learning to manipulate the phone lines), Sandpapered Fingertips (your sense of touch is infallible), Working Stiff (your Grifter knows how to fit in with the "common" folk), The Name of the Game Isn't Chess - It's Poker (convincing someone you have a bigger advantage than you really do). A list of era specific distinctions are included, as well as a list of terminology. Some reference material is provided, as well as a couple of tips on either playing a Noir episode as a flashback in your ongoing game, or running a full series set in another time.

WHAT WORKS: A very helpful reworking of Talents, especially necessary for the Hacker. Many of the Talents twist the roles thematically, such as the Hitter becoming a much more violent and...final...crew member than what we normally see from Eliot.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Less useful overall than the first Companion. The GMing section might could have used some beefing up.

CONCLUSION: A good addition to the Companion line, in a very fitting alternate setting. Leverage certainly had some dark moments over the years, so this wouldn't be uncharted territory for the setting, though the darkness was rarely sustained. Highly recomended if you want a darker twist on your Leverage game.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Leverage Companion 02: Leverage Noir
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Leverage Companion 01: Too Many Chefs
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/01/2013 18:16:02
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: We thought the Leverage RPG line was finished...but Margaret Weis Productions comes firing back with a new set of microsupplements! Leverage, by its concept, is very niche protectiony, with PCs specializing in one of five roles. This supplement, in PDF for $2.99, addresses crews that have more than one of a given role...say two Hackers, two Hitters or two Grifters. Options are provided for the duplicated roles to combine their talents...as well as an option for one to swoop in in top of the other and steal their glory. A set of Talents are provided which are designed to build off of these situations, such as a Crew Member who lets themselves get taken captured to give their crewmate an opening. There's even one built around two Masterminds working together. The next session takes it to the extreme: A team consisting entirely one role, and how to diversify your crew of Grifters, Hitters or even
Masterminds. An optional rule provides extra drama, having the fallout be worse if someone screws up in their secondary role. Again, new Talents are provided that play into this. Sample crew concepts are provided, giving inspiration for All-Grifter, All-Hacker, All-Hitter, All-Thief and All-Mastermind crews.

WHAT WORKS: Leverage is a great idea if you have five players and they are all happy focusing on separate roles...if not, then you have Too Many Chefs. The options are great, with mechanical support to back up PCs otherwise stepping on each other's toes, rather than making the game more difficult.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Not a lot, here. These aren't situations that'll come up in every game, and this is a low cost extra that'll fill in those gaps for you if it happens.

CONCLUSION: Really good first Companion, starting the series off right. The most potentially frustrating aspect of Leverage is what to do if you have a "non-standard" group...good to see that MWP recognizes that and is here to help.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Leverage Companion 01: Too Many Chefs
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Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Civil War X-Men
by Raul S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/25/2012 03:45:59
This book is pretty good , and comes in to resolve a demand from the followers of the game , who wanted more mutants datafiles.
It offers also some ideias to run extra scenes and event , but it must be made clear to new players , that this is a supplement , and so, it can´t be bought alone , whitout the Marvel Heroic RPG Core book , and the Marvel Heroic RPG Civil War.
As to the book , i found some graphic errors , where some pictures don´t appear , and some errors in the text , but , hopefully , this can all be easily arranged with the releas of a Revised edition.
All and all , a good book , and a must have for all fans of the X Heroes....

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Civil War X-Men
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Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Civil War X-Men
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/24/2012 12:04:28
WHAT WORKS: Some great Milestones and Unlockables that are usable in just about any X-Men campaign is great, as are some X-Men getting the Datafile treatment for the first time. In fact, from a pure character selection standpoint, this is probably the most pleased I’ve been with the datafile collection.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: A lot of the problems with this book have more to do with the really bad place the X-Men books were in during Civil War than it does with the book itself. The gameable content feels lighter here than it does in any of the other books, but again: That was the X-Men during Civil War.

CONCLUSION: The weakest of the Civil War books, unless you just NEED the mutant datafiles (and the inclusion of X-Factor alone makes a strong argument for that), hampered by being tied to Civil War, which was a dark time creatively for the X-Men books. That said, the Unlockables and Milestones are pretty much all-purpose, and the section about playing Sentinel O*N*E pilots plays to one of Marvel Heroic’s greatest strengths in the Event set-up, which is flipping the perspective of the events on their ear by putting the players in different driver seats. That said, a set of Milestones and Unlockables for the O*N*E pilots would have taken that promise one step further and made the book that much better. I can’t call it a “must-buy” unless you’re a big X-Men fan running Marvel Heroic, because with Annihilation and Age of Apocalypse coming up, this is as close to an all-purpose X-Men book as you’re probably going to see for a while. Still, might be worth it for the oddity of seeing an X-Men product that basically ignores Storm and Wolverine (due to their activities during Civil War).

For my full review, please visit http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2012/11/tommys-take-o-
n-civil-war-x-men.html

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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